FAO warns of pesticide waste time bomb in poor countries
Agency running out of funds for cleanup operations - donor appeal
9 September 2004, Rome -- High quantities of toxic chemical waste from unused or obsolete pesticides are posing a continuing and worsening threat to people and the environment in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, FAO warned today.
For example, it is estimated that the Ukraine has around 19 500 tonnes of ageing chemicals, Macedonia 10 000 tonnes, Poland 15 000 tonnes and Moldova 6 600 tonnes.
Stocks in Asia are currently recorded at 6 000 tonnes, a figure which does not include China, where the problem of pesticide waste is believed to be widespread. In the Middle East and Latin America together around 10 000 tonnes have been declared and countries are asking FAO increasingly for help.
"Affected countries are calling - ever more frequently and with greater urgency - for assistance to remove their obsolete pesticide stocks and prevent the further accumulation of toxic waste," said Mark Davis, head of FAO's programme on the Prevention and Disposal of Obsolete Pesticides on the occasion of an expert consultation held in Rome.
"Unfortunately, without additional funds from donor countries, FAO will be unable to respond to its member nations that need assistance because funding for an FAO programme on the prevention and disposal of obsolete pesticides is ending by the end of this year," he added.
Obsolete pesticides are left over from pest control campaigns. Stockpiles have accumulated because a number of products have been banned for health or environmental reasons, but were never removed and disposed of. Stocks remain where they are stored and often deteriorate to contaminate the environment and put people at risk.
The worst affected are frequently poor rural communities that may not even be aware of the toxic nature of the chemicals they are daily exposed to.
The waste sites contain some of the most dangerous insecticides like the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor and organophosphates.
The condition of obsolete pesticide stocks varies from well-stored products that can still be used in the field, to products that have leaked from corroded steel drums and other containers into the soil. Pesticide poisoning is common close to unmanaged sites.
The amount of obsolete stocks in 53 African countries is estimated at 50 000 tonnes, FAO said. FAO is participating in the Africa Stockpiles Programme (ASP), a multi-partner initiative, which aims to clear obsolete pesticide stocks from African countries and put in place measures to prevent the problem from recurring.
Nevertheless, several African countries that cannot benefit from the ASP in its first phase of activities are calling on FAO for immediate assistance.
"Countries such as Algeria, Cameroon, Somalia, Eritrea and Senegal are deeply concerned about the continuing severe health and environmental impacts of their obsolete pesticide stocks," Davis said.
With financial support from Japan, FAO has recently identified around 600 tonnes of obsolete pesticides in Mozambique, despite a previous clean-up. Japan has provided $850 000 for this project and has committed a further $1 million for clean-up and prevention.
The Netherlands has contributed about $8.9 million to FAO's prevention and disposal of obsolete pesticides and has pledged an addition $2 million to help with the Africa Stockpiles Programme.
"Clean-up and prevention measures urgently need to be combined. The awareness of a targeted and limited use of pesticides, respecting human health and the environment, needs to be urgently raised in many countries. More countries are showing a desire to address the problem of pesticide management and use," Davis said.
The clean-up of one tonne of obsolete pesticide waste costs around $3 500. Most developing countries do not have the facilities for safe hazardous waste disposal.
The present upsurge of locusts in Africa requires extensive control measures. Affected countries and FAO are making all efforts to ensure that this campaign does not result in further obsolete stocks and that effects on the environment are being reduced.
FAO has been the lead agency in dealing with obsolete pesticides in developing countries since 1994. FAO activities include initiating and coordinating national inventories, coordinating and monitoring disposal projects, publishing guidelines on prevention and management and public outreach. FAO also promotes and supports integrated pest management programmes and strong pesticide control measures.
Information Officer, FAO
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